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Why does my hearing aid whistle? How do I stop my hearing aid from whistling?

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

David - Audiologist for Hearing Aid UK
Medically Reviewed By:
David

Audiology Expert at Hearing Aid UK

Updated: 23rd May 2024
Why is your hearing aid whistling?

Why is my hearing aid whistling?

How to prevent any sound leakage from your hearing aids and how to fix any feedback issues

 

Whistling hearing aids

Hearing aids may whistle due to feedback, which occurs when amplified sound escapes from the ear canal and re-enters the microphone. This can be caused by improper fit, earwax buildup, or a high-volume setting. Proper fitting, regular cleaning, and adjusting the devices can help minimise this whistling sound.

In this article, we look at the common causes of whistling in hearing aids, ranging from poor fit to earwax blockages.  We also explore solutions and technologies that aim to eliminate the feedback and discuss tips for wearers to reduce whistling.  

 

Why is my hearing aid producing a whistling sound?

Hearing aids offer a bridge to the world of sound for millions.  Whilst designed to improve the quality of life for those with hearing loss, they can still introduce an unwelcome disturbance into the listening experience.  The enigmatic whistle, for example. 

High-pitched feedback sounds such as a whistle can be not only bothersome but also uncomfortable.  In this modern world, we now rely on seamless communication more than ever.  Annoyances, such as whistling, highlight the urgent need for new innovative solutions.

 

Hearing aid whistling can be common

Those who wear hearing aids sometimes complain about whistling noises coming from their devices and the inconvenience they bring.  Because of the nature of hearing aids, feedback can occur, which creates a high-pitched sound that can be unbearable to listen to for long periods of time. 

Hearing aids are simply miniature marvels of engineering, comprising microphones, amplifiers, and receivers.  However, the intricate nature of these components means they can create a feedback loop.  This is when sound from the receiver is re-amplified by the microphone, leading to the whistling.

Other factors could be an improper fit, occlusion, or excessive earwax.  There is generally a root cause for whistling hearing aids and such problems can be easily fixed. 

 What to do when your hearing aids whistle

How do I stop my hearing aid from whistling?

Experiencing a whistling sound from your hearing aid can be both irritating and potentially embarrassing when it's audible to those around you.  The good news is that there are typically steps you can take to address this issue.

Commonly, a hearing aid produces whistling or squeaking sounds when the ear mould is not correctly positioned. To prevent any sound leakage and, subsequently, the whistling, make sure the ear mould fits snugly within your ear.

If you're still encountering feedback, consider the following tips to mitigate this bothersome whistling:

 

Earwax build-up

Keep your ears clean.  Earwax build-up in the ear canal can block sound transmission, causing it to be forced back out (feedback loop) and thus creating a whistle. You can attempt to resolve this by applying a few drops of olive oil to your ear in the morning and at night for five consecutive days.

If there's no improvement, consult your local GP, who may prescribe ear drops or recommend an ear syringing procedure to safely remove any stubborn wax.  Leaving this problem to continue, will change how you perceive sound and this can have problematic consequences.

It is also important to ensure that there is no earwax left on your hearing aid's earpiece, as the problem can arise again.

 

Keep an eye on hearing aid volume

Reduce the volume of your hearing aids to a comfortable level that still allows you to hear clearly.  Wearing your hearing aids at maximum volume may lead to unwanted noise.

If you find yourself needing the highest volume setting to hear properly, your hearing might have changed.  It's advisable to consult your audiologist to assess your hearing, verify the proper functioning of your hearing aid, or make adjustments to rectify the problem.

 

Consider proximity

Why does my hearing aid whistle when I touch it?  Try to avoid covering or touching your hearing aids.  Proximity to certain objects can cause some hearing aids to whistle. This is one of the reasons why audiologists often conduct tests by moving their hand close to the hearing aid to check for feedback. If this continues to occur, discuss the issue with your audiologist.

You may have noticed that hugging people on the side with the hearing aid can lead to feedback too, so consider directing friends and family to the side without the hearing aid, if applicable, to reduce feedback.

 

Be mindful when wearing headgear

Wearing a hat covers your hearing aids which can result in whistling.  This is because the hat's fabric can obstruct the hearing aid's microphone or receiver. This interference disrupts the hearing aid's functionality, causing feedback.

To prevent whistling while wearing hats, or other headgear, consider hat styles that allow adequate space around your hearing aids or use accessories like hearing aid retention clips.  You can also try reducing the volume of your devices or removing the hat completely.

 

Eating can cause feedback

Why does my hearing aid whistle when I eat?  Jaw movements such as chewing or smiling can cause feedback.  Hearing aids may whistle while eating due to changes in the shape of the ear canal caused by jaw movement. This movement can temporarily affect the seal between the ear canal and the hearing aid, creating feedback.

It's a common occurrence, but ensuring a snug fit and seeking professional adjustments can help mitigate the issue.

 

A change in body shape can cause whistling

Be aware that changes in your weight, either gain or loss, can lead to an improper fit, causing the hearing aid to produce a whistling sound. Consult your audiologist to obtain a new or modified ear mould.

 

Old hearing aid parts can cause issues

The plastic tube that connects some hearing aids to the ear mould can harden and shrink over time, pulling it out of its correct position and causing whistling. If the tubing or ear moulds are loose or damaged, they may need adjusting or replacing by your audiologist.

 

The fit needs to be right

Make sure the earpiece and ear mould is correctly positioned and snug within your ear.  Whistling may also occur when inserting the hearing aid if there's an imperfect fit between the earpiece and the ear. Modern hearing aids typically incorporate a brief delay between closing the battery case (which activates the device) and the electronics starting up.

Quickly placing the hearing aid in your ear can often prevent the whistling. You can try turning on the hearing aid (closing the battery case) once it's properly positioned, although this might be more challenging for those with longer hair.

You could also consider an open-fit hearing aid.  Open-fit hearing aids, which allow some natural sound to enter the ear, can be a solution for some wearers as they are less prone to whistling.

 

Whistling hearing aids

Why your hearing aid may have started whistling

How to avoid your hearing aids whistling in the future

 

What to do if your hearing aids are still whistling

In noisy environments, hearing aids can sometimes struggle to differentiate between the desired sound and background noise, leading to feedback.  Use the feedback cancellation features available to you.  Many modern hearing aids come with feedback cancellation algorithms and adaptive signal processing techniques that can automatically detect and eliminate whistling.  

Artificial intelligence continues to hold promise for real-time monitoring and adjustment - preempting feedback whilst maximising sound quality and comfort, which also tackles feedback issues.

However, for a quick fix, adjust your hearing aid settings to minimise background noise by accessing any Background Noise Cancellation features available to you.  Your audiologist can also fine-tune your hearing aids to reduce feedback with your hearing loss in mind.

Ensuring you remain consistent with regular check-ups and future hearing healthcare treatment plans will also bring to light any device issues early - making sure you always hear at your best.

 

Talk to your audiologist about IIC hearing aids and upgrading

If you're still struggling with feedback and don't already have an Invisible in Canal (IIC) hearing aid, consider exploring this option. IIC hearing aids can effectively eliminate feedback whistling, using digital technology to enhance sound quality and custom-fitting entirely within your ear canal.

For instance, most IIC hearing aids offer features like feedback suppression and wind noise reduction for outdoor clarity, as well as a music mode for clearer musical notes without feedback or distortion.

Often hearing aids can become troublesome and the components can start to malfunction through wear and tear and when they are reaching the end of their lifespan.  This might be a sign to think about upgrading your existing devices to more current technology.  Discuss your concerns and other hearing aid options available with your audiologist.

 

How to prevent your hearing aids from whistling - In conclusion

In today's age of advanced technology, most modern hearing aids come equipped with automatic feedback cancellation features. However, whistling issues can still arise.

Begin by ensuring your hearing aids are free from potential obstructions, such as hats, scarves, or earmuffs. Also, be cautious not to wear them while sleeping, as this could inadvertently trap sound within the receiver - creating a feedback loop.

Keep the hearing aid or earmould securely positioned in your ear to prevent feedback. If your device has volume control, it's advisable to maintain it close to the default setting.  Ensure you stick to regular ear check-ups.  These are crucial to detect and address earwax buildup, which can harm your hearing aids and trigger the troublesome whistling noise.

Whistling hearing aids can be incredibly vexing, but with these precautions, you can minimise the issue. If problems persist, seek guidance from an audiologist or your local GP to effectively eliminate hearing aid whistling.  Do not let the feedback problem persist any longer.

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Why does my digital hearing aid whistle?

If you continue to experience whistling despite these efforts, consider discussing feedback reduction technologies and more advanced hearing aid models with your audiologist.  

Remember that each person's experience with hearing aids may be unique, and the causes of whistling can vary.

Consulting with your audiologist is essential to pinpoint and address the specific issues leading to feedback and to find the most effective solutions tailored to your needs.

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Meet David

Meet David, Audiology Expert at Hearing Aid UK

David graduated as an audiologist in 2003. He worked for many years dispensing hearing aids for the high street chains and later as an independent audiologist before joining the management team at Hearing Aid UK.

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Common FAQs about whistling hearing aids

How do I stop my hearing aid from whistling?

Begin by ensuring the device is undamaged and free from earwax buildup. Then, attempt to position the receiver deeper into your ear, as loose placement can cause hearing aids to whistle. If these measures prove ineffective, it's essential to consult a hearing health professional for adjustments.

What does a whistling sound in a hearing aid mean?

Excessive volume settings on your device can lead to the sound being redirected back into your hearing aids, resulting in whistling. Earwax buildup can block the ear canal, preventing sound from passing through and causing feedback as it reflects back into the device.

How to stop hearing aids from squealing?

If you're using a custom hearing aid, gently press your finger on it or on the ear mould in your ear and push it slightly deeper. If this temporarily stops the squealing, your hearing aid or ear mould may be too loose. A snug fit is crucial to prevent squealing in hearing aids.

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